Laughton out to prove he should stay with Flyers

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Laughton out to prove he should stay with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- It was Jan. 27. Scott Laughton was in Tampa, Fla.

He remembers it well. And he doesn’t want it to happen again.

“I remember the exact moment I was walking around and I got a call,” Laughton said. “And I just sat down with [GM Paul] Holmgren and talked about how I was going to go back to junior.”

Laughton, the center whom the Flyers selected 20th overall in the 2012 draft, learned he would be going back to the Oshawa Generals that day upon returning home from Florida. He wouldn't be staying with the Flyers for a sixth game.

There had been plenty of debate about whether Laughton, who averaged 11:31 on the ice and fit in seamlessly with the Flyers, would remain past the dreaded game No. 5. Per NHL rules, underage junior-level players can play nine games before a year is burned off their entry-level contracts. For last year’s lockout-shortened season, that number was cut to five.

In the end, the Flyers decided Laughton would be better served by playing top-six minutes and collecting time on special teams with the Generals. Even knowing the then-18-year-old would have spent a fair amount of time on the bench or in the press box had he stayed with the Flyers, the decision was a tough one.

“I think that he made a real strong impression on all of us,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He proved that he could skate, he could compete, that he was smart enough to jump into a lineup like that and play games.

“Going back and getting another year and getting stronger and more experience at that level, but to be more mature, more physically mature, I think that only helps him coming back to this year."

Unfortunately for Laughton, most of the Flyers’ roster for the 2013-14 season is set. Fortunately, though, the coaches and front office liked a lot of what they saw from him last year, and he will be getting a lot of looks during this week’s rookie camp -- which opened Friday -- and next week’s full team camp.

Laughton knows that. If any of the 26 participants in rookie camp make it to the Flyers' Oct. 2 season opener, chances are it will be him. And that's what he's trained for all summer, not just improving his strength and conditioning, but focusing on the areas of his game he knows he must take to the next level to succeed in the NHL.

He worked with a new trainer. He put on weight. He focused on improving his net presence.

“[I’m] definitely more confident, more comfortable,” he said. “I think I’m better in the offensive zone, definitely, and I think I’ve stuck with the defensive game -- I’m not cheating the puck or anything like that. I think staying on the offensive side, I’ve been better for sure.”

Though so much attention has been paid to the Flyers' defense and how the team is suddenly fully stocked -- if not overstocked -- on the blue line, the Flyers are particularly strong at center as well. Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier, Sean Couturier and Max Talbot are all technically ahead of Laughton on the depth chart at center.

At least thus far, however, Laughton has refrained from playing around with the Flyers' lineup and imagining how and where he might fit into it.

“I don’t think I need to,” he said. “I think my job is clear here, to try to get a spot on the team, and that’s the ultimate goal. I don’t need to look at the roster and see what’s going on. I’ve just got to do my job every day, and I hope it works out.”

There have already been plenty of discussions about Laughton's future, and whether 2013 could be the year he makes the full transition from juniors to pro. There have been so many, in fact, that the Flyers' front office has already begun to consider whether it could be worth moving Laughton from center to left wing, just to keep him around.

"Paul and I talked about that, and I think that’s something that we’ll look at and consider through training camp here," Laviolette said. "But he’s a centerman, that’s his natural position, and he’s going to be given plenty of opportunity to play center here."

That's OK with Laughton. And so too is a move to left wing -- even though he's never played it before.

After all, he said, “the ultimate goal is clear: just to make this team.”

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.

The defenseman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.

Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville's stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The best way to sum up Subban's approach? C'est la vie.

"I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way," Subban said. "I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way."

The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defensemen. Adding Subban's offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.

The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.

"When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win," Subban said (see full story).

Penguins: Team rides maturity, resilience back to Cup Final
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL's marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

"Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim," Crosby said. "We've just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We've done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength" (see full story).

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.